10 ways to protect your mental health over the holidays

Christmas is different this year – and staff and students need to look after their wellbeing, says Leanne Hicks
26th December 2020, 8:00am
Leanne Hicks

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10 ways to protect your mental health over the holidays

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/10-ways-protect-your-mental-health-over-holidays
Teacher Mental Health: How Teachers & Students Can Look After Their Mental Health & Wellbeing This Christmas

How have you found 2020? For me, I think I can only describe it as a rollercoaster. A rollercoaster that you have not been allowed to get off and that seems to have no end. At times it's been a pleasant ride - spending more time at home, doing the jobs we always put off, having quality time with our children. But at other times it's been really tough going - a time of increased anxiety, cancelled holidays, confusion, loneliness. 

All in all, it's provided us with a powerful insight into how we all react in times of constant change and how we cope in times of uncertainty.

I've experienced the impact that it has had on my own mental health, and that of my friends, family, colleagues and our students. We have all responded very differently and, collectively, I think we have shown tremendous resilience, but this is not without its challenges. 


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We have all felt a bit up and down during this year (maybe that's a bit of an understatement) and we've spent a lot of time reflecting and working out what makes us feel better and what our coping strategies are.

Now, Christmas has arrived…so now what do we do? We are stuck at home again. We are all meant to be happy at this time of year, right? That is not the reality for everyone. 

If you are looking for motivation, or simply some tips on how to maintain mental wellness over the festive period and beyond, I have drawn on my own personal experiences and spoken to colleagues, students and other professionals to curate these top tips below.

Wellbeing tips for students

1. Connect with friends

You guys are technology and social media whizzes. Use this to keep in touch with each other, but don't be fooled by the pictures - people only post their best bits and it's not always as magical as it looks.

2. Have your own code

Agree a code word with family and/or friends that you can use to remove yourself from a situation that you may find difficult, so they know you need some time away.

3. Get your health fix

Ensure that you remain hydrated while also avoiding big blood sugar highs… because after this comes the dip. Eating healthy food can help balance your mood.

4. How many drinks is too many?

You may feel pressures or want to drink lots of alcohol at Christmas - but a hangover and low mood are not a good combination.

5. Coping strategies

Identify some habits that make you feel good and mentally healthier…. Cuddling a pet? Playing certain music? Doing some exercise? And commit to doing one or all of them daily.

Wellbeing tips for teachers

1. Take time for yourself

Plan time to engage in activities that are relaxing. It's important to have time to yourself and engage in self-care.

2. Choose who you spend your time with

Be around people who will help out, that are understanding and listen and support you.

3. Get out in the fresh air

Being in the same house for too long can get a bit intense - a change of scenery will do everyone good. 

4. Accept and acknowledge

Acknowledge your feelings, it's OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed. Remember, for most of us these feelings will pass - but talk about your worries. Whether that is to a friend, family member or on one of the helplines.

5. Say no if you want to

We all feel pressure to be accommodating at Christmas. You are not being selfish by saying "no" to some things or asking for some help.

Importantly to us all, don't forget that there is always someone willing to listen.

It's OK to not be OK

It's OK not to be OK, so don't be afraid to reach out. The negative feelings will and do pass but sometimes we all need a little helping hand to figure this out. There are many mental health support charities and organisations providing 24/7 support over the Christmas period including MIND (0300 123 3393) and The Samaritans (116 123).

Leanne Hicks is the group head of student support at Activate Learning

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